Strategic Guide to Account Based Marketing (ABM)

Geschreven door Yash Chaurasia op 15 maart 2018

Today’s conventional marketing logic is to cast a wide net across message and channel. The aim to get as many leads into the top of funnel as possible – be it through gated content or webinars or through outbound, and then keep emailing them down with content until only those who want to buy are left.

However, no matter how good our marketing automation systems become or how much more complex and advanced we make the logic and workflows – important leads get lost. With all the automation, we still cannot identify buying-signals early on and tell who will buy, so we get our content in front of everyone.

For the sales teams, this process may end up being too stretched-out.

The bigger problem is that people are getting more emails than before and marketers get increasingly average conversions. These email campaigns – cold and content alike are as generic, indistinguishable and hence ignored since every marketer across industries follows the same “format”.

Also known as Account-based Marketing.

Meanwhile, the ones pulling in double-digit conversions are playing a different game – focusing on key companies they’d like to have as clients, and then executing a comprehensive, multi-channel relationship building exercise to fill their funnel with high quality sales-ready leads.

What is Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?

Account-based marketing (ABM) identifies your ideal prospects well ahead of time. Instead of sending typical email blasts to a massive list of somewhat qualified contacts, we are turning the tables.

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With all the qualification done up-front, you can focus on a smaller, targeted list with truly personalized message and content. Sure, it’s very time-intensive work to get a shot at each company’s business, but it builds real relationships with your ideal customers.

How does ABM fit with Inbound Marketing?

Since account-based marketing targets a specific company instead of attracting a wider audience, it can be easy to see account-based marketing different than inbound marketing.

However, ABM and Inbound share a few core principles and can actually be well used in conjunction.

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Having the right context for your potential buyers and their pain points is key in both methodologies. Both focus on establishing a close-knit relationship between sales and marketing, catering highly personalized and targeted content to deliver customer happiness to improve retention and then upsell.

The inbound ideology is about adapting to people’s buying journey. Account-based marketing fits into that philosophy as it allows both sales and marketing to take a highly personalized approach to a set of targeted accounts.

Since ABM is still gaining ground across small and medium size companies, there is a lack of best practices to follow. That’s why we have prepared a solid guide for you to follow and succeed with Account-based Marketing.

Six steps to build your Account-based Marketing Program the right way.

Step 1. Make ABM a strategic initiative and priority.

ABM is all about driving growth through high-visibility accounts. It is critical that the sales and marketing leadership recognizes the strategic importance of this program and supports it with the necessary resources.

To succeed at ABM, you need to create, run, and analyze new programs across channels and may even need to bring on new tools. That means you need the right resources in terms of money and people.

Marketing and sales leadership should collaborate to define this strategy and communicate the plan and larger initiative to the marketing and sales teams.

Key elements in an ABM strategy:

  • Accounts: Which companies and individuals are you pursuing?
  • Goals: What are the desired outcomes with each account?
  • Tactics: What can marketing and sales do to achieve those goals?
  • Ownership: Who is responsible for what across sales and marketing?
  • Measurement: Which KPIs will marketing and sales use to measured their activities and impact?

Step 2. Align your goals

Marketing and sales will work together very closely on accounts, so it’s vital that they agree on the overall goals as well as selection of tactics, determining how each tactic contributes towards the said goals.

While the overall goal is to land new accounts or expand business with existing ones, marketing and sales should define discrete goals that align to these big ones.

These can include:

  • Identifying a higher number of individuals within each account
  • Securing a greater number of appointments/meetings from senior-level decision makers
  • Improving sales cycle time
  • Increasing customer loyalty
  • Closing a higher percentage of major deals
  • Growing revenues within existing accounts

Step 3. Identify target accounts

With ABM, your marketing message is based on the account you’re targeting.

We recommend answering these questions when coming up with an ideal customer profile:

  • Where have you sold most effectively in the past?
  • Which kinds of accounts have proven most profitable over time?
  • Which industries do you work with today?
  • What characteristics are most predictive of sales success?
  • What attributes make for the best fit with your product?
  • What factors should rule out an account?
  • What kinds of accounts play best to your unique strengths?
  • In which accounts do you already have an advantage?
  • What accounts deliver the most value (including strategic value)?

You should consult all the available data to answer these questions, including company data, intent and engagement data that you can discover from your CRM, Marketing Automation and social channels, along with other sources.

Also, here are some attributes to consider when developing a target account list:

  • Industry
  • Revenue
  • Location
  • Technology use
  • Number of employees
  • Competitive product usage
  • Current customers

Step 4. Identify influencers within organizations who participate in decision-making.

Today B2B marketers and salespeople alike have to develop strategies to ensure that they are interacting with everyone across the organization who has a role in the purchasing decision.

While typically there is one person making the final decision, on average, a salesperson will interact with at least two to four people to close a deal.

Your sales reps and marketers should know who the buying influencers are, and how their role within their organization relates to other operational areas. Each individual involved in the buying decision probably consults with at least one other person within their firm before making the decision.

You need to develop a sound understanding of the company’s internal process in order to give the “influencers” plenty of useful material so they can get all their stakeholders on board.

Step 5. Create relevant and compelling content that develops trust and shares knowledge

Once you have identified people within the account, create compelling, engaging content that delivers value to each person on the buying panel.

This end-to-end engagement requires a set of value propositions delivered via a variety of messages and content. The key here is to understand and deliver the content formats your audience prefers.

Focus on showing that you understand the account’s biggest challenges and goals. Whenever possible, repurpose existing content by tweaking it to the specific account you’re targeting.

Once you have identified the key players within each account, map the ecosystem to show who is engaged and what problems they care about.

Clearly outline the differences and the messages you will share with each of them.

For example, the CIO, CFO, and CMO may all care about increasing revenues for their company; however, the CMO wants to do that using an “easy-to-use software”, the CIO wants that software to require little installation and maintenance, and the CFO wants that software to be affordable with better terms.

Remember that getting someone to engage with your salespeople largely depends on how well your content performs.

Simply put, your content is standing in for your sales team until buyers in the target account are ready to speak to a salesperson.

Step 6. Measure your impact

When measuring the effectiveness of Account-based Marketing, you should review data across a subset of accounts rather than across your entire database.

Needless to say, you should A/B test and optimize your ABM program and campaigns just like with other marketing initiatives. For example, you’ll can test different content that resonates with different personas within the buying panel.

Here are the five metrics you should track:

  • Impact. What is the value of marketing’s programs and its aggregate impact on new pipeline and revenue?
  • Coverage. Do you know the right people to target within the account?
  • Awareness. Of all the accounts you targeted, how many were aware of our company and brand?
  • Reach. If you held an event, how many of the attendees were the right people from the right accounts?
  • Engagement. How much time are the prospects spending with you and what is their engagement level – whether on the website, during a webinar, or at events, etc.?

At the end of the day, Account-based marketing requires a lot of trial and error - like anything in marketing and sales.

However, it can become a compelling way to break through the noise by differentiating you from the other thousands who are using the same tactics and email templates that rarely work.

Know more how Inbound and/or ABM can help your company? Let us know - we'll set up a call with you:

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Yash Chaurasia

Yash Chaurasia

Senior-level leadstreet marketing expert obsessed about marketing's user experience and micro-ROI throughout the customer journey. Loves working with SaaS products and solve for user acquisition, product adoption, engagement, and churn.